Solar Motion Lights: Best Usage Tips

Solar Motion Lights: Best Usage Tips

October 24, 2020

Solar lighting has given homeowners great lighting options for their decks, porches, walkways, gazebos, and other outdoor landscaping with extreme ease of installation and the options to easily and affordably change or adjust the lighting. 

Using traditional lighting tied into your home’s electricity, strict plans were needed to run electrical supply to all of your lighting fixtures, and any changes or adjustments to the layout or design required you to have an understanding of home electrical, or to hire a professional to come onsite to get the work completed, making the system both complex, and quite pricey. 

Solar panels have removed the need to run wiring from light to light, making installation simple enough for the average consumer. This lack of wiring has also created an easy to maintain setup which can be adjusted or fixtures can be replaced with ease at any given time. 

Things To Keep in Mind With Solar Lights

When installing solar powered lights, there are some factors you should keep in mind to increase longevity and ensure they will operate correctly. With so many options available on the market, you can always find lights which fit your intended style. 

As the name entitles, solar power lights require solar energy, i.e. sunlight, in order to charge an internal battery. This means you should consider where you have direct sunlight throughout the day. 

Most solar setups require 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day to maintain a bright light through the evening. The sun’s availability and positioning may change throughout the year, and this should be kept in mind, while many lights are mounted to decks, porches, or fences optional ground marker lights which are stuck into the ground are easily moved or adjusted through the year. 

Initially charging the solar lights may be needed before installing them in their new locations. Like many battery powered devices, you get the most out of your lights if first fully charged. This could include placing your lights in an open fully lit area for a couple days to allow all day sunlight to charge the battery, along with refraining from using night time battery and light operation until fully charged. This will encourage the system to be “active” being bright and ready to go on the first evening after installation. 

With solar lighting receiving its power from the sun, they should be inspected and maintained regularly. Simple maintenance such as cleaning and wiping down the solar panel faces or tops should be done once every couple months, or whenever it becomes visible dirty. In depth maintenance may be required for the specific light system, such as battery replacements and LED bulb replacements. 

Many solar powered lights turn on automatically through photodiodes which monitor when the sun has gone down, or through motion sensor activation which turns on when motion is sensed within a certain range. Ensure that either the photodiode or motion sensor remain clean and free of debris. 

Motion Sensors

Motion sensor activated lights utilize the advantages of owning a solar powered light, except it remains off or dimmed until it senses motion, such as you walking in front of it. These lights work great for walkways and driveways where you may not want light all the time, but as you come home on a late evening carrying groceries the added light becomes essential to keep your footing. 

Motion sensor lights can also be a great addition for entrances to your home, not only supplying light as you approach the door, but also creating a type of “active” home security which would trigger as someone approached. This option for home security also gives you the option to add motion sensor lights to dark areas away from the house which may be encouraging. 

While we are focusing on outdoor motion sensor lighting, it’s worth mentioning the advantage of motion sensors within your home, from hallway or staircase lights spanning the floors to create a small light source to help you at night, to entire lighting fixtures mounted in rooms such as the bathroom--motion sensor lighting as created the advantage of turning on your lights even if the light switch isn’t within reach. 

Adjusting Motion Sensor Lights

When setting up your motion sensored solar lights, you should consider what is seen within the range of the senor’s “eye,” as the width of view or range may pick up activity you wouldn’t want to activate your light. From passing cars on the road to the neighbor’s dog, it’s important to not only understand the range of your lights, but to test them out and confirm the range and field of view. 

The height of the motion sensor’s field of view should also be considered. While you may want your light fixture to be higher in the air, you need to ensure the height isn’t pointing above your head, which wouldn’t turn on the light. This includes the angle of the fixture if not mounted on a perfectly vertical surface, such as house siding. 

Some motion sensor lights, especially wall mounted display fixtures and security lights, may have adjustable or external solar panels and motion sensors. For these light fixtures, you are able to mount the lighting fixture exactly where you want it, running the external solar panel to a well lit area such as the roof or around the corner of buildings, and running the motion sensor to read your approach to the area even if the light is directed away from you or along a path. These sensors can then be leveled or adjusted to aim downward to reduce activation from passing cars or pedestrians. 

When purchasing high end motion sensor activated solar lights, you may receive the option to adjust the brightness and duration of your lights. Duration refers to how long the light will remain once the motion sensor has been activated. In cases where you are arriving home in your vehicle or approaching a door, be sure to adjust this setting to the longest needed time so you don’t get caught in the dark. 

Adjusting brightness is found on dimmable motion sensor lights. Many of these options also come with a Low / High setting where the light turns on at night similar to a normal solar light, with the low setting usually falling between 0 and 50% brightness. The light remains at this level until the light is motion activated, in which case it will illuminate to the high setting, usually 50 to 100%, and remain on for the set duration. These lights create a great visual accent from a distance, which becomes more usable when approached. 

LEDs in The Winter For Cold Locations

While LED lights are able to operate efficiently in extreme cold weathers, some consumers may choose to tear down their displays as the snow begins to fall. If your lights are stored indoors, consider leaving solar panels on the lights exposed to either sunlight, or the indoor lights. 

If light visibility is not an option, consider removing the batteries while the lights are stored.

If you decide to leave your lights on display during the cold seasons, ensure that snow does not build up on top of the light. The batteries require periodic operations to encourage longevity. 

Summary

Motion activated solar powered lights create an active visual element to any outdoor area, supplying free energy and great visual effects. From driveways to doreways, motion activated solar lights create the opportunity for vision when you need it. 

Sources

https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-safety/question238.htm 

https://ledlightguides.com/how-do-motion-sensors-work/ 

https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/adjust-motion-detectors/